Assign people to prisons aligned with their gender

Alayna Pellegrin

Imagine feeling like a stranger in your own body. Facing your inner turmoil as well as society’s judgmental standards makes the situation even more difficult.

Envision transitioning and feeling true bliss for the first time because you finally get to be yourself.

Now picture being sent to a correctional facility that completely disregards your gender identity. All that hard work that went into finding yourself is then stripped from you.

Transgender influencer Nikita Dragun may have experienced similar feelings when Miami police recently arrested and assigned her to a male prison.

Transgender people become a target for violence and abuse because of their gender identity, which is why people need to go to prisons aligned with their gender rather than their biological sex.

In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Eighth Amendment grounds that failing to protect people in custody qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. The case, Farmer v. Brennan, centered on the alleged prison rape of Dee Farmer, a transgender woman.

Farmer stated that only a few days after her transfer to the Federal Correctional Institute, a cellmate raped her. Before her incarceration, Farmer had been living as a transgender woman. She argued this fact along with what court documents called the “violent environment and a history of inmate assaults” at the Terre Haute facility. Officials deliberately failed to protect her by placing her there.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender people are over nine times more likely to be assaulted or abused by fellow prisoners and over five times more likely to be assaulted or abused by prison staff.

Assigning transgender people to prisons aligned with their gender identity can help lessen these risks.

Some argue that men could falsely claim to be transgender so that they are housed with women they can then assault. While there is no evidence to support that this happens, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that transgender women placed in men’s prisons are being sexually assaulted at much higher rates than the general population of prisoners.

There is limited data on whether incarcerated transgender women are at a lower rate of sexual assault in women’s facilities because so few transgender women are being held in women’s facilities.

This needs to change. Transgender inmates should have the opportunity to house with those of the same gender.